IN-FORM Yuka Saso shoots for a second straight major championship while Bianca Pagdanganan seeks a repeat of her record feat as they lead the chase in the 2018 Champion Infinity Philippine Ladies Open beginning today (Wednesday, Jan. 10) at the Orchard Golf and Country Club in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
With a mix of talented foreign and other local players also all primed-up and ready to slug it out with the two fancied bets, a spirited battle is expected in the next three days of the country’s premier ladies championship organized and conducted by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.
The Orchard’s Palmer course, with its bunker-laden set-up and its hazards coming into play in most holes, toughens up the chase for top honors among 64 players from eight countries, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and Guam.
Saso drew Singapore’s Shannon Tan, Felicia Medalla and rising star Annyka Cayabyab in the 8:20 a.m. flight on No. 10, hoping to flash the form she showed in dominating the country’s top pros and a slew of foreign aces in the kickoff leg of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour at Ayala Greenfield last week.
“I’m going for it (crown). It will probably be my last year as an amateur, so I’m going all out and give it everything I got to win,” said Saso, who placed second to Princess Superal in 2016 and finished third in last year’s staging of the event backed by Champion Infinity, Eva Air, San Miguel Corp., Metro Pacific, Atty. Gilberto Duavit, Inquirer, Alveo Land, G&W Clubshares Inc., Crimson Hotel Filinvest, Golfers Club Shares Inc., Cherrylume and NGAP.
But the Fil-Japanese remains wary of the elite field in the centerpiece Open division, led by Pagdanganan, who set a record 16-under 200 total in dominating the event at Wack Wack last year. Now with the University of Arizona, Pagdanganan opens her title-retention drive at 7:50 a.m. on the first hole with Thai Kultida Pramphun, Grace Quintanilla and Alexandra Etter.
Pramphun is one of the three Thai top players tipped to figure prominently in the title race with Onkanok Soisuwan kicking off her bid at 7:50 a.m. on No. 10 with Japanese Masaki Yamamoto, Junia Gabasa and Marianne Bustos.
Pinkaew Trachuentong, on the other hand, drew Hong Kong’s Hei Nam Leung, Liao Chia-hui of Taiwan and Jonah Ilagan.
Aside from Saso and Pagdanganan, other local players expected to contend are Harmie Constantino, Sofia Legaspi, Annika Cedo, Kristine Torralba, Nicole Abelar, Sam Bruce, Laurea Duque and recent Malaysian Juniors Open champion Mikha Fortuna.
Other foreign bets tipped to contend in the event, supported by Province of Cavite, Luisita Golf and Country Club, Mileage Asia, Vermogen, Golf Depot, Orchard Golf and Country Club, Alabang Ladies Chapter, Forest Hills GCC, Tagaytay Highlands, Sta. Elena Golf Club, Manila Golf Club and Canlubang GCC with TIB Taishan and The Turf Company-Texas Eagle as hole-in-one sponsors, are Indonesian Michela Tjan, Singapore’s Hailey Loh and Thai Phannarai Meesom-us.
Also on tap are competitions in Classes A and B to be classified after the first round.